Green Car, Black Eye: Toyota Prius Recall Targets Potentially Deadly Brake Issue

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
green car black eye toyota prius recall targets potentially deadly brake issue

Toyota shoehorned a lot of cutting-edge technology into the current-generation Prius, but the fuel-sipping vehicle has a low-tech Achilles Heel.

The automaker is recalling 340,000 2016 and 2017 Prius models to fix a potentially deadly parking brake problem, the Associated Press reports (via USA Today). In the Prius, it could lead to “sudden acceleration” of a different kind.

The automaker claims that the vehicle’s parking brake could become inoperative over time.

“If this occurs and the driver exits the vehicle with the transmission in a gear other than ‘Park’ while the ignition is on, the vehicle could roll away, increasing the risk of a crash,” the automaker said in a statement yesterday.

The Prius uses a monostable shift toggle, not unlike Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ now defunct ( and notorious) unit. To engage “park,” the driver must press a button located near the shifter. Confusion sometimes reigns when dealing with these shifters, meaning a manual parking brake acts as a failsafe to stop rollaway accidents.

According to the initial AP report, the automaker has “received reports of crashes, injuries and deaths” as a result of faulty parking brakes. Toyota claimed it was looking into the reports. That story has since changed, with AP now reporting that Toyota has updated its official statement. The automaker now claims it isn’t aware of any reports of accidents linked to the fault “as of Oct. 3, 2016.”

Make of that what you will.

The majority of the recalled Prius models are in Japan. Toyota sold a further 94,000 vehicles to North American customers. In a post on its website, Toyota outlined the proposed fix.

“Toyota dealers will add clips on the top of the brake cable dust boots to prevent the cable from becoming inoperative at no cost to customers,” the automaker said, adding, “All known owners of the involved vehicles will be notified by first class mail starting in November.”

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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  • 05lgt 05lgt on Oct 13, 2016

    Can we just agree not to use that photo any more? there are other, less telling angles. We know it's unacceptably ugly and it's sales are suffering. they need to recall those tail lights. Maybe put a bag over them or something in a TSB. I was looking forward to lunch, now? not so much.

  • VoGo VoGo on Oct 13, 2016

    I don't understand why anyone would by the standard Prius. The Prius Prime is better looking, gets better mileage as a plug-in, AND it's cheaper after tax. Please note that I only said that the Prius Prime was better looking than the Prius. That's a low bar.

  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!